18th February 2021 | Green Gazette

Oireachtas briefing: Green Ministers announce funding for festivals, roads and peatlands

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Minister Ryan announces public consultation on solid fuels and €555m in road allocations

The Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications, Eamon Ryan TD, has taken the first step towards a nationwide ban on the sale and burning of smoky coal and the regulation of other fuels, as part of a drive to combat air pollution and protect public health.

The Minister launched a public consultation to seek views on the further regulation of solid fuel use for domestic home heating, and is inviting the public, health professionals, other experts, NGOs and those involved in the industry to give their views on how Ireland can design and implement rules that will save lives.

“Clean air is fundamental to our health and quality of life and is essential for the health of the environment on which we depend”, Minister Ryan said. “People have no choice about the air they breathe. We as Government have an important role to develop the policies that will deliver cleaner air. It is my intention to bring in a nationwide ban on smoky coal and regulate other fuels as soon as possible.”

This week, Minister Ryan also announced details of the 2021 investment programme for regional and local roads. This €555 million funding package will allow approximately 3,100kms of roads to be maintained and 2,450kms to be strengthened.

“Our main priority in 2021 is the maintenance and renewal of our existing regional and local road network. This type of routine maintenance is fundamental to safeguarding our road infrastructure and keeping the network in a good condition”, Minister Ryan said.

“We must also ensure that our roads are resilient against the deteriorating effects of climate change. Overall, €23 million worth of funding is being earmarked for climate change adaptation and resilience works in 2021. This includes €15 million for new applications which continues the funding stream provided through the July 2020 stimulus programme.

“When improving our existing road network, it is vital that we take account of the needs of all road users, including cyclists and pedestrians. In this regard, all strategic road improvement investment schemes will include provisions for walking and cycling infrastructure.”

Minister Ryan also announced new legislative measures to give An Garda Síochána additional powers to help tackle the anti-social use of scrambler bikes, quad bikes, and similar off-road machines in spaces such as public parks.

“I am determined to stop the misuse of quads, scramblers and similar vehicles, by making it an offence to use them in areas such as waste ground, parks and other places which were not covered by road traffic legislation up to now”, Minister Ryan said.

Minister Hackett announces €2.2 million funding for Peatlands Projects

The Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Senator Pippa Hackett, this week announced funding for two projects which will focus on finding better ways to manage on-farm drained peat soils in the Midlands. The two projects, which secured €2.2 million between them, were selected following an Open Call under the European Innovation Partnerships Initiative (EIP) and they will be funded under Ireland’s Rural Development Programme 2014-2021.

“I am really looking forward to seeing what the two groups selected, Wetland Surveys Ireland and Green Restoration Ireland will discover about how we can better manage drained peat soils for carbon friendly farming”, Minister Hackett said.

“Managing our soils in a way that captures and stores carbon can have huge climate benefits and projects like these, which involved close collaboration between scientists, ecologists and farmers will deliver those benefits. By working closely with the farmers, I know that these EIPs will co-develop measures to guide a future large-scale scheme to manage these soils.”

Minister Martin announces €1m for virtual St Patrick’s Festival

The Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media, Catherine Martin TD, has announced up to €1m in programme funding for the St Patrick’s Festival 2021 as part of its ongoing work to support and showcase Irish artists and the creative community despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The festival will run online on St Patrick’s Festival TV at stpatricksfestival.ie from March 12 to 17, telling the stories of our dynamic, modern, diverse culture, and celebrate our proud ancient traditions, offering more than 100 events for the nation to enjoy.

“This year’s Festival message calls on all Irish, at home and abroad, to cherish our ancient traditions alongside our contemporary culture and celebrate them in safety”, said Minister Martin. “It positions Ireland firmly in the mind of the world with a message of hope for brighter days ahead for people here at home while reassuring tourists that, when it is safe for them to do so, they will be welcomed to celebrate with us once more. I am particularly pleased that this dynamic programme will provide some employment for our arts and entertainment community and a rare opportunity for them to perform at a time when they need both most.”

“The St Patrick’s Festival week is a highlight of the calendar for creativity and tourism,” she added. “Without support, a vital part of our identity wouldn’t be marked in the way that we want. The Department is determined that this year, despite all the difficulties of COVID-19, Ireland can celebrate its culture.”